Diverse Muslim identity must replace the stereotypes

Posted on July 21, 2007


Niall Crowley, The Irish Times, Opinion Section, July 21, 2007, p. 15

Reducing all Muslim people to a singular, all-encompassing unit justifies inequality and discrimination and does not serve the emergence of an integrated society, writes Niall Crowley.

A man stands up in a Dublin bus, points at an Irish Muslim girl and shouts “terrorist”. A middle-aged Arab Muslim man is beaten by neighbours and forced to leave his house. These are two Irish incidents detailed in the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia 2006 report on Islamophobia. There is, however, no data on the extent and nature of such incidents in Ireland.

The incidents occur in a European context where Muslim people are often victims of negative stereotyping and where many Muslim people face social exclusion, discrimination and limited opportunities for social advantage according to the European Monitoring Centre.

In such a context, it is necessary to identify and challenge any of the elements in the construction of hatred against Muslim people in Ireland.

“The art of constructing hatred takes the form of involving the magical power of some allegedly predominant identity that drowns out other affiliations and in a conveniently bellicose form can also overpower any human sympathy or natural kindness we may normally have,” according to leading Indian academic Amartya Sen in his study Identity and Violence.

An article by Theodore Dalrymple in The Irish Times (July 13th) would appear to contain some of the elements involved in the construction of hatred as defined by Amartya Sen. He states that “no one can ever be quite sure whether a Muslim who appears polite and accommodating is not simultaneously contemplating mass murder”. [more]

Please go to the Irish Times to read the remainder of this article.